IV-12 VFD tube calculator

By Ben Everard. Posted

If you love the look of Nixie tubes but are scared by high voltages, VFD tubes could be the retro display device for you. They work using the same logic as Nixies, with a connecting pin for each segment of the display plus three pins to provide power, and you can get hold of them at reasonable prices from online auction sites.

Maker Oskar wanted to build a project incorporating IV-12 VFD tubes as a display, and chose to build this beautiful calculator. It uses an Arduino Nano, Cherry MX Brown switches, key caps bought on AliExpress, and a custom PCB to allow the 1970s Soviet technology of the VFDs to work with an Arduino Nano.

Programming in Arduino’s custom version of the C programming language can be scary for anyone used to working with the relatively more user-friendly Python language, but a calculator is a relatively simple concept that gives you an ideal reference point if you want to make the jump. And if you don’t want to code, but you do like the look of a retro Soviet-looking desktop calculator, Oskar has made the code available on his GitHub page. This project has been so beautifully realised that you may, at first glance, think the case has been upcycled from an existing build. It hasn’t: the case is made from 3 mm plywood, designed in the Onshape CAD software, and cut out by a laser cutting company, finished off with a walnut veneer and a few coats of linseed oil. Gorgeous!


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